Reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs as mediators of the therapeutic effects of psychedelics on obsessive compulsive disorder symptomology

Publication Name

Clinical Psychologist


Objective: Emerging research suggests that the use of serotonergic psychedelics can be associated with reductions in obsessions and compulsions. However, little research to date has attempted to understand why this may be the case. The present study aimed to extend existing research by examining reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs as potential mechanisms underpinning the relationship between acute psychedelic effects and reductions in obsessions and compulsions. Methods: Participants (N = 312) who had reported having a significant psychedelic experience completed a retrospective survey that measured aspects of their experience as well as changes in death anxiety, obsessive beliefs, and obsessions and compulsions. Results: Acute subjective effects (i.e., mystical experiences; psychological insight) significantly predicted self-reported reductions in (a) obsessive beliefs, (b) death anxiety, and (c) obsessions and compulsions following a psychedelic experience. Mediation analyses evidenced significant indirect effects of mystical experiences, but not psychological insights, on obsessions and compulsions through reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs. Conclusion: These findings highlight the links between death anxiety, obsessive beliefs and obsessive-compulsive disorder symptomology, suggesting that reductions in obsessions and compulsions as a result of psychedelic use might, in part, be due to persisting effects of acute psychedelic experiences on these variables.

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